By on October 13, 2016

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Toyota shoehorned a lot of cutting-edge technology into the current-generation Prius, but the fuel-sipping vehicle has a low-tech Achilles Heel.

The automaker is recalling 340,000 2016 and 2017 Prius models to fix a potentially deadly parking brake problem, the Associated Press reports (via USA Today). In the Prius, it could lead to “sudden acceleration” of a different kind.

The automaker claims that the vehicle’s parking brake could become inoperative over time.

“If this occurs and the driver exits the vehicle with the transmission in a gear other than ‘Park’ while the ignition is on, the vehicle could roll away, increasing the risk of a crash,” the automaker said in a statement yesterday.

The Prius uses a monostable shift toggle, not unlike Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ now defunct (and notorious) unit. To engage “park,” the driver must press a button located near the shifter. Confusion sometimes reigns when dealing with these shifters, meaning a manual parking brake acts as a failsafe to stop rollaway accidents.

According to the initial AP report, the automaker has “received reports of crashes, injuries and deaths” as a result of faulty parking brakes. Toyota claimed it was looking into the reports. That story has since changed, with AP now reporting that Toyota has updated its official statement. The automaker now claims it isn’t aware of any reports of accidents linked to the fault “as of Oct. 3, 2016.”

Make of that what you will.

The majority of the recalled Prius models are in Japan. Toyota sold a further 94,000 vehicles to North American customers. In a post on its website, Toyota outlined the proposed fix.

“Toyota dealers will add clips on the top of the brake cable dust boots to prevent the cable from becoming inoperative at no cost to customers,” the automaker said, adding, “All known owners of the involved vehicles will be notified by first class mail starting in November.”

[Image: Toyota Motor Corporation]

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31 Comments on “Green Car, Black Eye: Toyota Prius Recall Targets Potentially Deadly Brake Issue...”


  • avatar
    brettc

    I’m confused about their yes it’s true, no it’s not statements. Are they getting advice from U.S. presidential candidates?

    I guess it’s another reason not to buy a Prius, as if the glacial acceleration wasn’t a good enough one in the first place. I like physical parking brakes in my cars and the ability to get up to speed faster than my ’85 Jetta diesel.

    • 0 avatar
      djsyndrome

      1. Parking brake -is- physical. Parking gear is a button.
      2. Acceleration is fine. You will win zero drag races but it gets to 60 in just over 9 seconds.

      • 0 avatar
        Macca

        Re: point #2, count me as another that doesn’t consider the Prius’ acceleration ‘fine’.

        Using a 0-60 compilation website, I’m seeing an average of 10.1 sec 0-60 and 17.6 sec 1/4 mi @ 79.3 MPH from 11 magazine tests of the second gen (excluding the Prius C). Car and Driver’s test of the 4th gen in April this year resulted in a 10.5 sec 0-60, and a 17.8 sec 1/4 @ 79.0 MPH.

        In a world where three-row crossovers can scoot to 60 MPH in the low 6 second range, minivans are in the mid-7s, and run-of-the-mill Civics are sub-7 seconds, 10.5 seconds can feel like an eternity. One of the through-town highways in my area has some dangerously short on-ramps, and trust me, having been in some cars with Prius-esque acceleration on said ramps is not my idea of fun.

        I understand the car’s raison d’etre but I just couldn’t live with something so sluggish.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          Those “dangerously short” on-ramps weren’t any longer back when the average family sedan had 90 horsepower you know.

          • 0 avatar
            Macca

            @JimZ: I just knew someone would key in on that ‘oversight’.

            This particular expressway was completed not long before the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act. I don’t know what this highway’s speed limit was prior to 1974, but even 15 years ago it was only 55 MPH through this stretch prior to a widening and resultant limit increase to 60/65 depending on sector. Now you have people regularly doing 75+ (80 is often the ‘common’ speed in the 65 zone) as much of it is tough for police to monitor for speeding during commuting hours (limited access, added lanes at the expense of shoulders, and pull-overs cause jams).

            Trying to merge into less heavily driven 50-55 MPH limits with occasional speeders doing +10% is an entirely different task, hence the design of the on-ramps. Congestion from population growth along with the proliferation of car ownership over the decades has altered the experience slightly. I think there might have been just a bit more courteousness on the road ‘back then’, but maybe that’s just wishful thinking.

            And wouldn’t you know it, the portions that have had extensive updates have also had longer merge lanes introduced where space allows. Others are so constrained that they’re stuck in their late-’60s configuration.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Everyone who says something like this should be required to drive a truck or bus for a month. Then you’d realize that 10 seconds 0-60 is perfectly adequate, if not soul-stirring, even in places with short on-ramps.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            the worst is when fully loaded trucks get on I-75 over the Rouge River, there are on-ramps right at the base of the bridge. It’s painful watching trucks get on and have to put their flashers on because they can’t get up to even 30 mph on the ascent.

            but what can you do? They weigh tons and only have 350-500 horsepower.

            edit: think about that for a second. we call 3,500 lb cars “underpowered” if they have less than 300 horsepower, yet your average tractor trailer loaded to the 80,000 lb maximum has about 400 horsepower.

        • 0 avatar
          ttacgreg

          Just two points.

          I can remember when 0-60 in less than ten seconds was in the category of faster vehicles out there, and Corvettes and Porches were in the mid 8 second bracket 0-60 times, and 1/4 miles in the mid 16’s.

          Except for passing on two lane rural highways, where is a 5 second 0-60 acceleration capability functionally useful?

        • 0 avatar
          Audiofyl

          Since when are these stats being exploited on a regular basis in daily traffic?

          I’ve driven my tdi golf (with very much similar acceleration to said example) 185k miles up to this point. There’s never been an instance where it was unsafe to accelerate. 90% of the time it’s more than adequate to get itself going. The other 10% of the time you didn’t want to be in front of that idiot for your own safety.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Poor Toyota owners, beta testers since the 2000’s.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    I wish they could recall the styling.

  • avatar
    shaker

    There’s something to be said for the shifter in my ’15 Volt – “P” is an actual parking pawl, just like a normal automatic – I only engage the parking brake on hills, to relieve pressure on the pawl.

  • avatar
    Click REPLY to reload page

    It looks like Toyota may have been using the same cheap Chinese parts supplier for parking brake components as FCA.

  • avatar
    YIELD

    “Potentially Deadly Brake Issue” seems a little excessive.

    If you are confused by pushing a large button labeled P that lights up and or don’t set the emergency parking brake, injury or death should occur.

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      It is a problem because this also is the emergency brake. If the hydraulic system fails, this is the back up. The mechanical cable connection to the brakes is in question in this recall. The fix is apparently very simple.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    ““If this occurs and the driver exits the vehicle with the transmission in a gear other than ‘Park’ while the ignition is on, the vehicle could roll away, increasing the risk of a crash,” the automaker said in a statement yesterday.”

    You shouldn’t be doing that anyway, you doofuses.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Can we just agree not to use that photo any more? there are other, less telling angles. We know it’s unacceptably ugly and it’s sales are suffering. they need to recall those tail lights. Maybe put a bag over them or something in a TSB. I was looking forward to lunch, now? not so much.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    I don’t understand why anyone would by the standard Prius. The Prius Prime is better looking, gets better mileage as a plug-in, AND it’s cheaper after tax.

    Please note that I only said that the Prius Prime was better looking than the Prius. That’s a low bar.

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